About the particular question Is this sentence correct...?, there is a dispute about how to handle closing and deleting. The timeline of what occurred is as follows within a rough two hour period:

  • question asked
  • three answers posted
  • some voting occurred (a downvote on the question and a downvote on 1 answer)
  • the question was closed by a moderator
  • all the answers were deleted

(the petty motivation is that one of my answers was deleted)

Some issues are:

  • answers (of whatever quality) to bad questions should be discouraged, because it encourages bad questions.
  • people getting rep for answers to bad questions is annoying, because holding back (because of the previous discouragement) leads to annoyance at rep earned for intemperance.
  • high rep users should 'know better'
    • some things are obviously off-topic, some things are questionable
  • moderators using delete is great for spam and incoherence, but is inappropriate for informing people of slighty annoying practice.
  • only moderators can delete an answer. (individuals can flag to bring attention to a moderator, but the moderator is doing the deleting). An 'undelete' option appears with the deleted answer for the author, but clicking that says that only a moderator can undelete it (there's no voting involved at all)

The content (in the specific question) is debatable: - The original question isn't obviously closeable as off-topic (it is not a well-described question, so it could be closeable for that reason, or it may be explicitly proscribed in the FAQ (I think this case fits "is the following sentence correct" questions are stated as off-topic). And seemingly poor questions are resurrectable by answers that pull out something interesting. - the answers don't seem to be, on their own, closeable or deletable (their quality is not terrible, maybe not the best but not terrible).

My side of the debate is that answers (that are not deletable for other reasons) to bad questions should remain; if the question is bad enough to be deleted then that's when the answers should go away, too.

And I think it is an inappropriate use of moderator's powers to do this kind of deletion. Close, close close, all the crap questions, please go wild. But don't -delete- the answers, as the question may turn out to be re-openable.

So, the question for discussion is, should -answers- to bad questions be deleted if the question is closed for poor quality/off-topic?

2 Answers 2


Mitch brings up a lot of good points.

I just a did some analysis on the month of April. Approximately 30% of our questions are being closed (46 of 151). Of those, rougly one-third are being closed by consensus (5 votes), while the remaining two-thirds are being closed by a moderator.

Sometimes I'm in wholehearted agreement with closure, but, perhaps just as often, I'm not. Justifications such as "too localized" and "off-topic" are quite subjective, so I feel it's generally better to let the community decide on such matters, as opposed to a single individual making an autocratic decision. (Supposedly, such closures are "for the good of the community," but one man's trash is another man's treasure. In my mind, far too many legitimate questions are being closed in a hair-trigger manner, some within a few minutes of being asked.)

I'm not sure why the answers to the referenced question were deleted, but I do know this: it is a little frustrating when you expend time and effort crafting an answer that you believe is both helpful and constructive, only to have someone arbitrarily decide it can be deleted, or that the question can be closed before you've finished typing a response.

Maybe my ramblings to this question are a little off-topic, but the O.P. said this:

I think it is an inappropriate use of moderator's powers to do this kind of deletion. Close, close close, all the crap questions, please go wild. But don't -delete- the answers, as the question may turn out to be re-openable.

So, the question for discussion is, should -answers- to bad questions be deleted if the question is closed for poor quality/off-topic?

My answers, in a nutshell:

  • No, decent answers to bad questions should stay on the board, unless they are patently offensive;
  • Yes, I agree that some moderator privileges can be abused;
  • While I agree that "crap" questions should be deleted, I think it's best for the community to collectively decide which questions are crap, and which may have some redeeming value.

I would like to see moderators cast more close votes, and close fewer questions using moderator privileges. That said, I'm not sure – maybe the system isn't designed that way? (If that's the case, I think a redesign would be in order).

  • Your last thought is unfortunately correct. There is no way for a diamond moderator to cast a non-binding close vote. See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/41062/… for prior MSO discussion on why this is.
    – waiwai933
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 3:10
  • @waiwai933: Thanks for the clarification, and the information. I would heartily endorse this being changed. I understand why it's designed that way in theory; in practice, however, it's almost like being demoted. (Given my druthers, I'd rather be able to cast a 1/5th vote, as opposed to being forced to close a question based on my single opinion).
    – J.R.
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 4:02
  • I don't think the moderator should have such complex voting rules. A moderator is supposed to have autocratic powers, which are needed. I just don't want a moderator to use delete (on answers) when voting would be appropriate.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 19:23
  • @Mitch: I would agree, if the decision to close was cut-and-dried every time. In reality, I've seen mroe than a few closures that seemed autocratic and premature. I don't like the arrangement now, and I feel I'll like it less if I ever achieve moderator status. I wouldn't call it complex; I'd call it flexible.
    – J.R.
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 22:23

I didn't vote to close, and I've just now voted to re-open. But I'd like to think either the question will be edited, or it can be flagged as a duplicate of What's the shortest sentence? (I'll vote for that unless it's altered).

I don't really expect it, but if it should turn out the question can be edited & salvaged, and if it seems that those earlier answers justify it, they can always be undeleted. I don't know what rep is needed to see, and vote to undelete, but I suppose plenty of us can do that.

I don't feel very strongly that those answers should have been deleted (I wouldn't have been frothing at the mouth if they hadn't), but on balance I think it's better they were. Not least because as OP himself says, high rep users should 'know better' than to answer questions that should be closed. Anyway, ELU is a "kinda" democracy, so you have to take your shots if people vote against you. Even if "people" turn out to be just one mod (but I admit I'm behind RegDwight in spirit!).

  • it seems that only moderators can delete (or undelete) -answers-; no voting is involved there.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 1, 2012 at 20:53
  • @Mitch: As I said, I don't know what rep is needed to see, and vote to undelete, but I can do those. So I suppose if you can't, it's 15K or 20K, since they're the only "breakpoints" ahead of you. Nor do I know if it's just a question of, say, 3 "undelete" votes does it automatically, or if it still needs a mod. But as I said, I'd reconsider if the question is changed, but at the moment I've no problem with the answers being "deleted". Commented Apr 1, 2012 at 23:45
  • @FumbleFingers: I don't think you can delete someone else's answer. I can't. Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 0:38
  • @Cerberus: Well, the implication of what I said there is anything you can do, I can do, and vice-versa, since I don't think there are any more privileges after 20K. Deleting an answer is a votable option for me (us?), but I think only if the answer has already accrued net negative votes. I suspect the more downvotes it has, the less delete votes are needed for a quorum. Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 0:57
  • @FumbleFingers: 1) so -you- can vote to undelete any deleted -answers-? 2) So, to make things clear, you're OK with moderators -closing- bad questions but -deleting- answers to them (just because these answers were to a closable question), not because the answers themselves are bad.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 0:59
  • @Mitch: 1 - yes; 2 - effectively, yes. At this stage in the game I have no real opinion on your deleted answer (although I did downvote one of the others). I was uneasy about equating last with previous, but you changed that anyway. I certainly don't think your answer is bad in and of itself - you could ask a better question yourself, copy that answer in against it, and I might even upvote it! I just don't feel strongly that it should be visible to all, in its current context. Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 1:13
  • @FumbleFingers: Ah OK, yes, I can vote to delete negative answers. But no positive or zero ones (and perhaps no recent ones either), so what happened with that question doesn't count. In any case, I am against deleting good answers. If the system doesn't want to reward answers to closed questions, then the reputation just shouldn't count—but good, informative answers should never be deleted. Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 1:22
  • @FumbleFingers: Just to put things in perspective, take all the answers that you yourself made to questions, and -delete- them for questions that were closed. The general feel (not necessarily a decided consensus) is that you 'should have known better' not to answer a question that should be closed. So hypothetically, do you think your answers to closed questions should be -deleted-?
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 1:39
  • @FumbleFingers: 'previous' was a typo on my part (the reason for the edit) but that was entirely irrelevant to the close/delete situation.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 1:41
  • @Mitch: I don't want to paint myself into a corner, but in general I wouldn't care if my answer to a closed Q was deleted. Except that obviously if I'd answered I didn't originally think the Q should be closed. So I might try to get it re-opened, unless I accepted the closevoting after thinking it through. I personally have a problem the other way around. I have several answers I'd like to delete - but I can't, because they've been "accepted". And I've been ticked off for trying to delete the text of the answer I no longer stand by! Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 2:50
  • ...I've had another look at your answer, and I'm pretty sure the same points have been made before - probably several times. But as to the question - it seems to me it's on a par with asking "Is Pin number accepted a grammatically valid English sentence?". Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 3:12
  • @Mitch: In the circumstances, I thought I'd better come back on this one (you voted to close the origin of "Idaho" question which I'd just answered, then RegDwight summarily closed it). I only copied the Wikipedia text in as an answer because I thought it was interesting, and too long to put in a comment. I'm quite happy that the Q was closed. Should the answer be deleted? Probably not, since there's nothing "original/contestable" in it apart from me saying I believe Wikipedia. But I wouldn't really care one way or the other, to be honest. Commented Apr 3, 2012 at 22:25

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